New Study Finds Abstinence Education Effective, Comprehensive Sex-Ed Flops

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 1, 2010   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

New Study Finds Abstinence Education Effective, Comprehensive Sex-Ed Flops

by Steven Ertelt Editor
February 1
, 2010

Washington, DC ( — A new study released today finds abstinence education effective in reducing sexual activity among youth while comprehensive sexual education flops. Students participating in an eight-hour abstinence program showed a one-third decrease in their rates of sexual activity compared to non-participants.

The study, involving black middle-school students, appears in the February 2010 Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, a publication of the American Medical Association.

It found the students in the abstinence program showed lower levels of sexual activity even two years later.

The National Abstinence Education Association tells that the study shows positive outcomes for high-risk, African-American, middle school students.

"The study shows that a high-risk population of 6th and 7th graders receiving abstinence-centered education reduced sexual initiation, reduced the number of sexual partners (a crucial determinant in acquiring an STD), and further showed that abstinence instruction did not deter the use of condoms (a common charge brought by anti-abstinence critics)," NAEA’s Valerie Huber said.

Of particular note, students were significantly less likely to initiate sex with the abstinence-centered approach than any other sex education strategy

“If we are serious about reaching teens with the skills they need to resist sexual activity, the findings supporting the effectiveness of abstinence education should not be ignored," she said.

The study authors provide insight that these findings are important because the abstinence-centered approach is preferred in many communities throughout the country.

"The need to provide American parents with choices regarding the type of sex education their children are offered not only respects local control but underscores the fact that abstinence-centered education is an important response to the complex issue of teen sex," Huber said. "Federal funding guidelines require all abstinence-centered education to be theory-based, medically accurate, and focused exclusively on health – the very tenets that describe the studied abstinence program."

While the studies authors say abstinence education is the primary approach funded and promoted by the United States, Huber says the opposite is true.

She said that, during the last ten years, comprehensive sex education received four times the federal dollars as abstinence education.

"The Obama Administration completely eliminated abstinence education from the 2010 budget, a rash and imprudent decision that jeopardizes the sexual health of America’s youth," she said. "The positive outcomes of this study provide President Obama important data for his 2011 budget recommendation to Congress. We urge a crucial course adjustment in funding so that abstinence-centered education can continue to work to reach teens."

Conservative writer Robert Rector also commented on the new report at National Review.

While abstinence helped students, he wrote: "By contrast, safe sex (promoting only contraceptive use) and comprehensive sex ed (teaching both abstinence and contraceptive use) programs didn’t affect youth behavior at all. Students in these programs showed no reduction in sexual activity and no increase in contraceptive use, in either the short or long term."

"Employing state-of-the-art evaluation techniques, the study used random assignment to place students into four groups: a group that received instruction solely in abstinence; a safe-sex group instructed in contraceptive use; a comprehensive, or mixed message, group taught both abstinence and contraceptive use; and a control group that received health education unrelated to sex," he noted.

Students in the abstinence program were one third less likely to initiate sexual activity when compared to students in the other three groups. They also were not less likely to use condoms if they did become sexually active.

"By contrast, safe sex and comprehensive sex-ed classes had no effect on student behavior; students in these classes did not reduce sexual activity nor increase contraceptive use when compared to the control group," Rector said.

The study was conducted by Drs. John and Loretta Jemmott of the University of Pennsylvania.

"Prior to the current study, there had been 15 scientific evaluations of abstinence education, 11 of which had shown that abstinence programs were effective in reducing sexual activity," Rector noted. "However, the new Jemmott study is the first evaluation showing positive results which employed full random assignment. As a result, it cannot be dismissed on methodological grounds."

Related web sites:
Abstinence Works –

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